AT&T + iPhone : More Blocks for More Applications
posted Sunday Aug 2, 2009 by Nicholas DiMeo
More exclusivity battles are coming out of the telecom compounds, this time, from AT&T and Apple. Six weeks ago, Google developed and submitted a Google Voice application for the iPhone, which was rejected and remove from the iPhone application store recently. The FCC has contacted both AT&T and Apple, informally requesting their motives behind the matter. The issue is coming off of the heels of a new administration's tighter scrutiny on the telecom and manufacturing sectors of this tech industry.
The FCC is on "a mission to foster a competitive wireless marketplace, protect and empower consumers, and promote innovation and investment," Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement about the matter at hand. "Recent news reports raise questions about practices in the mobile marketplace."
This is not the first of the letters that have been sent. Advocates and smaller carriers have caused the FCC to also look into the overall competitiveness of cell phone makers and carriers, as well as pricing and exclusivity of certain devices.
Apple declined to comment in regards to the letters, and AT&T could not be reached for comment. Google has said it will "continue to work to bring our services to iPhone users, for example by taking advantage of advances in mobile browsers."
This debate is similar to the one Skype sparked last year, when the VoIP client attempted to convince the agency to accept policies which would allow their applications to work on any carrier's network.
While exclusive handsets and applications are what the larger carriers claim make their services different, consumer groups have long insisted for a more equal opportunity to obtain these features, especially due to the two year contract most have to sign.
AT&T has laid the blame to Apple, stating decisions on applications are solely in their hands, but a large following has insisted the two companies to better explain their relationship and, more importantly, disclose why the iPhone manufacturer would block an Internet-based app such as Google Voice or Skype, whose programs directly compete with AT&T's wireless service.
James D. Schlichting, head of the FCC's wireless bureau, asked the companies in the letter:
Did Apple act alone, or in consultation with AT&T, in deciding to reject the Google Voice application and related applications? If the latter, please describe the communications between Apple and AT&T in connection with the decision to reject Google Voice.
The FCC has also requested Google to explain the purpose of the voice app and how it would be used over the network, and if Apple explained why they rejected it. All three companies have until Friday, August 21st to respond to the matter.
Your take: Is proprietary applications a differentiation? Or is it more censorship in larger companies forcing our hand after they have our dollar?